Seven races that could decide the Senate majority

Democrats and Republicans are suiting up for a fierce final stretch to the November midterm elections.

With Labor Day seen as the unofficial general election kickoff, they have just more than two months to win over voters.

The upper chamber is split 50-50, but Democrats hold a slight edge over Republicans through Vice President Harris’s tiebreaking vote. That one-woman majority has helped Democrats deliver a number of legislative victories, including a multibillion-dollar climate, tax and health care package.

This November, Democrats are looking to expand that majority to tick more tasks off of their agenda, while Republicans are intent on tipping the balance of power in their favor to put a check on Democrats in Washington.

These are the seven Senate races that could decide the majority in the upper chamber:


Pennsylvania is home to one of the most highly watched Senate contests this cycle, with Republican celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz facing off against Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) for the seat being vacated by Sen. Pat Toomey (R).

Democrats view the race as one of their best pickup opportunities in the upper chamber, and two election forecasters last month moved the race from “toss-up” to “lean Democrat.”

Oz, who was endorsed by former President Trump, won the Republican nomination by just 1,000 votes over former hedge fund CEO David McCormick. Fetterman, who is considered a progressive, easily beat out centrist Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) for his party’s nomination.

The race between the two men has turned personal.

Fetterman has worked for months to portray Oz as a carpetbagger from New Jersey and an out-of-touch television-star-turned-politician, while Oz has tried to put a spotlight on Fetterman’s health.

The lieutenant governor suffered a stroke in May, days before the primary, which kept him off the campaign trail for about three months.

Fetterman holds a strong lead over Oz in FiveThirtyEight’s average of polls, 48.3 percent to 40.2 percent.


Ohio is hosting a marquee Senate race this cycle, with Rep. Tim Ryan (D) going head-to-head against “Hillbilly Elegy” author and venture capitalist J.D. Vance to replace Sen. Rob Portman (R), who opted not to run for another term.

Vance, who has Trump’s endorsement, bested a crowded field of GOP candidates to win his party’s nomination, while Ryan easily skated onto his party’s ticket.

Ryan, a 10-term congressman and 2020 presidential candidate, is seeking to present himself as a sensible moderate in his quest to win over voters in a state that voted for both Trump and former President Obama twice. He has distanced himself from Biden on some occasions, and previously said he “agreed with Trump on trade.”

Vance, a Trump critic-turned-supporter, touted his closeness to the former president during the primary battle, but then largely dissipated from the spotlight.

Ryan has significantly outraised Vance, raking in $9.1 million in the second quarter compared to Vance’s $2.3 million. Last month, the Senate Leadership Fund — a PAC aligned with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — funneled $28 million into Ohio for TV and radio ads bolstering Vance.

Ryan holds a razor-thin lead over Vance in FiveThirtyEight’s average of polls, 45.2 percent to 44.6 percent. The seat is rated “lean Republican” by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.


After winning a nail-biting special election runoff last year that helped Democrats secure their majority in the evenly split upper chamber, Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) is back on the ballot with hopes of winning a full term in Congress.

His seat was widely viewed as one of the GOP’s best pickup opportunities, but Republicans have been growing concerned over their nominee, former college football Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker.

Walker has been bruised by unforced errors on the campaign trail, revelations regarding his business experience and successes, allegations of domestic abuse and news that he has three previously undisclosed children.

But Walker is backed by Trump and Mitch McConnell and has high name recognition in the state.

On the money front, Warnock has proven to be a prolific fundraiser, ranking in more than $17.2 million in the second quarter of this year. Walker raised around $6.2 million in the same time period.

Still, the race remains close, according to FiveThirtyEight’s average of polls, with Warnock currently holding a slight edge over Walker, 46.7 percent to 45 percent.

The seat is rated a “toss up” by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.


In Arizona, Republican venture capitalist Blake Masters is challenging Sen. Mark Kelly (D), who won a special election in 2020 and is now vying for a full term.

Kelly — a retired NASA astronaut who is one of the most vulnerable Democrats up for reelection this cycle — has worked to present himself as a moderate, bucking Biden and his party on a number of occasions throughout his short tenure as a senator. 

Masters, who is endorsed by Trump and has support from Republican megadonor Peter Thiel, has put a spotlight on his close ties to Trump and at one point said he would have objected to the results of the 2020 presidential election.

But he has appeared to be moderating his tone in recent days, editing his campaign website to soften language regarding his stance on abortion and election .

Kelly has maintained a lead over Masters, according to FiveThirtyEight’s average of polls. He is currently ahead of his GOP challenger, 50.2 percent to 42.4 percent.

The seat is rated a “toss up” by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.


Nevada is shaping up to be a potential problem for Democrats, with former Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R) mounting a bid against Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D).

While Cortez Masto holds a slight lead, Republicans see the Silver State as a potential pickup opportunity this November. The seat is rated a “toss up” by the Cook Political Report.

Still, Cortez Masto significantly outraised Laxalt in the second quarter, raking in more than $7.5 million, compared to the Republican’s $2.8 million.

Laxalt, who is backed by Trump and served as the co-chairman of his reelection campaign in Nevada in 2020, has expressed support for unproven claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump — a stance that Democrats have since seized on.


Wisconsin is home to another marquee Senate race this cycle, with two-term Sen. Ron Johnson (R) facing a challenge from progressive Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (D).

Democrats see the Badger State race as a seat they can flip. Johnson, a close Trump ally who is known for making controversial comments, is one of the most vulnerable Senate Republicans vying for reelection this cycle.

He has gotten wrapped up in the House Jan. 6 select committee’s investigation, drawn headlines for his stance on coronavirus vaccines and most recently, he suggested that Social Security and Medicare should be classified as discretionary spending.

On the Democratic side, Barnes has highlighted his parents’ connection to unions, his experience community organizing, his time spent as a state lawmaker and his job serving as lieutenant governor.

Barnes has come in ahead of Johnson in a few polls last month, but Johnson significantly outperformed Barnes in fundraising during the second quarter, raking in more than $7 million compared to the Democrat’s more than $2.1 million.

Despite his controversies, Johnson has won two uphill Senate battles, including an upset victory in 2016 after being all but left for politically dead.

The seat is rated a “toss up” by the Cook Political Report.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire holds its primary on Sept. 13, so Democrats don’t yet know who will take on Sen. Maggie Hassan (D) in November. But they do know she’s vulnerable.

Hassan, who was first elected to the Senate in 2016, has made abortion a top issue for her campaign after the Supreme Court overturned the landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade. 

She bucked the Biden administration earlier this year on its plan to end a Trump-era immigration policy — a stance a number of vulnerable moderate senators up for reelection took.

On the Republican side, retired Army Gen. Don Bolduc is an early leader of the pack in the primary. In a University of New Hampshire Survey Center Granite State poll conducted last month, Bolduc held a 21 point lead over his closest opponent, state Senate President Chuck Morse.

Businessmen Vikram Mansharamani, finance executive Bruce Fenton and former Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith are also running for the GOP nod.

The race is currently rated “lean Democrat” by the Cook Political Report.

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